There will be plenty of surprises come Thursday night at the 2013 MLB draft, including prospects getting chosen considerably later than originally expected.
Experts take the time to scout high school and college prospects throughout the season, determining where they will go while taking into consideration their potential, the likelihood they'll sign a professional deal and the needs of each team.
Those experts aren’t always correct, and players often go higher and lower than expected. But let’s give the experts some credit, as no draft is easy to predict 100 percent.
So, while many players have first-round potential and will likely hear their names called early in the draft, let’s take a look at three players who will slide—whether just a few slots or potentially even more.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
Gray is easily one of the top pitching prospects in this year’s draft class, and many experts have him getting selected at either No. 1 to Houston or No. 2 to the Chicago Cubs. But there’s a chance he'll fall closer to No. 5 or No. 6.
The big right-hander from Oklahoma is 10-2 in 16 starts this season for the Sooners. In 119 innings of work, he has a 1.59 ERA, 138 strikeouts and just 22 walks. He recently led Oklahoma to a victory over Coastal Carolina in the NCAA regionals, where he allowed two earned runs over nine innings with 11 strikeouts but threw 129 pitches.
Here's what Joe Hamrahi, the president of Baseball Prospectus, had to say about that performance:
So Jonathan Gray threw 130 pitches in today's regional game against Coastal Carolina. Wonder how the Astros, Cubs, etc. feel about that.— Joe Hamrahi (@JHamrahi) May 31, 2013
While Gray has a high ceiling and plenty of potential, that doesn’t necessarily mean he'll go in the first two picks come Thursday night. In his latest mock draft, Keith Law of ESPN has the Sooner starter going to Cleveland at No. 5 (insider subscription required).
Law’s reasoning is that Houston could save money for other draft picks by taking Colin Moran (3B, UNC) with the first overall pick. He thinks Chicago will go with Mark Appel (RHP, Stanford). The dominoes continue to fall until the Indians pick Gray with the fifth pick.
Minnesota will certainly be on alert if Gray doesn’t go in the first three picks, but the Twins might prefer Kohl Stewart (RHP, St. Pius X High School). Either way, don’t be surprised if Gray drops a couple of spots, with Houston and Chicago letting him slide by them.
Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville (Ga.) HS
Frazier is a great high school slugger who should expect to hear his name called within the first 10 picks of the draft. Or should he? Bleacher Report MLB Lead Writer Adam Wells had the Kansas City Royals taking the outfielder at No. 8 in his latest mock draft.
But according to Bleacher Report MLB Prospects Lead Writer Mike Rosenbaum, Frazier is the fourth-best prospect in the draft class. While that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll go No. 4 in the draft, it speaks to how talented he is and where he sizes up against other top prospects.
In Law’s mock draft, he has Frazier falling to No. 12 with the Seattle Mariners. Jim Callis of Baseball America had the Red Sox taking Frazier with the No. 7 pick in his second mock draft. But according to this tweet, he thinks Frazier might be available for the New York Mets at No. 11:
This season for Loganville (Ga.) High School, Frazier hit .485/.561/1.134 with 17 home runs and 45 RBI, according to MaxPreps. He has great power and a quick bat, which teams will see as extremely valuable when determining if they should take him.
But the senior does have a commitment to the Georgia Bulldogs. If Frazier falls in the draft, which he might, it’ll be interesting to see whether he signs a professional deal or goes to school.
Trey Ball, LHP/OF, New Castle (Ind.) HS
Ball is a very versatile player, and the team that takes him could decide to keep him on the mound or throw him into the outfield. Teams like the Royals (No. 8) or the Mets (No. 11) seem to make sense.
Where will Trey Ball go in the draft?
This season, Ball posted a 0.76 ERA and had 93 strikeouts while being named the top high school baseball player in the state of Indiana, according to Sam Wilson of the Muncie Star-Press (h/t Indy Star).
Ball is clearly a stud on the mound, and he put up great numbers from the plate as well. In general, he projects to go within the first 10 picks in the draft, but the University of Texas commit might not hear his named called until more toward the middle of the first round.
B/R’s Mike Hoag has Kansas City taking Ball at No. 8, noting that the Royals should like his potential as a pitcher and outfielder. But Law doesn’t have the left-hander going off the board until the Philadelphia Phillies make their selection at No. 16.
This draft class has a lot of high-level right-handed pitching talent, but Ball is arguably the top lefty. It appears that teams won’t be focusing in as much on lefties this year, though, and that’ll be apparent when Ball falls from a top-10 pick to a top-20 pick.